Enrile bail a ‘special accommodation,’ says SC Justice
Senator Juan Ponce Enrile’s bail that the Supreme Court has granted was seen as a “special accommodation” and could set a dangerous precedent.
The warning was contained in the 29-page dissenting opinion of Associate Justice Marvic Leonen who added that the decision “has perilously set an unstated if not ambiguous standard for the special grant of bail on the ground of medical conditions.”
He said the humanitarian consideration used as basis by majority of the high court in granting bail has no legal basis.
“Bail for humanitarian considerations is neither presently provided in our Rules of Court nor found in any statute or provision of the Constitution,” Leonen said, adding that “the Constitution and our rules require that bail can only be granted after granting the prosecution the opportunity to prove that evidence of guilt is strong. The special grant of bail, due to medical conditions, is unique, extraordinary and exceptional.”
While the high court cited the testimony of a doctor from the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) who said that Enrile’s health condition is fragile and requires special treatment, he should have been presented as an expert witness and subjected to both direct and cross-examination before the Sandiganbayan.
However, Enrile’s motion to fix bail, Leonen said, was anchored on other ground, not on his medical condition.
“This will usher an era of truly selective justice not based on clear legal provisions, but one that is unpredictable, partial and solely grounded on the presence or absence of human compassion on the day that justices of this court deliberate and vote,” Leonen said.
Leonen said the decision was tailor-made for Enrile whom he described as “unbelievably fortunate.”
He said there are many other accused in a non-bailable offense suffering from serious health conditions but remain in jail “because they may not have the resources to launch a full-scale legal offensive marked with the creativity of well-networked defense counsel.” Enrile’s lead counsel is veteran lawyer Estelito Mendoza.
“For them, there are no special privileges. The application of the law to them is often brute, banal and canonical. Theirs is textbook equal treatment by courts,” he lamented.
“Our precedents show that when there are far less powerful, less fortunate, poorer accused, this court has had no difficulty denying a motion to fix bail or motion to set bail where the crime charged carried the imposable penalty of reclusion perpetua (20 years and one day to 40 years imprisonment). With those who are less fortunate in life, there are no exceptions,” he added.
The justice, who was joined in his dissent by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, and Associate Justice Estela Perlas Bernabe added that those who have read the decision may conclude that the decision is the “result of political accommodation rather than a judicious consideration of the facts and the law.”
“This case may benefit one powerful public official at the cost of weakening our legal institutions. If it is pro hac vice (for this case only), then it amounts to selective justice. If it is meant to apply in a blanket manner for all other detainees, then, it will weaken the administration of justice because the judicial standards are not clear,” he added.
In the same opinion, Leonen revealed that there was a surprising revision of the draft decision penned by Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin.
He said during past deliberations in their session, the debate centered on two mitigating circumstances in Enrile’s plunder case – his advanced age at the time of commission of the alleged crime and his voluntary surrender – that would determine whether the penalty could be lowered.
But in their session last Tuesday, Aug. 18, Bersamin changed his draft and instead focused on the humanitarian consideration as ground in granting Enrile’s bail petition, Leonen claimed.
Leonen said he sought more time to address the new ground, but Bersamin insisted for the voting to proceed.
In the afternoon of the same day, “the ponente passed around a final copy of the majority opinion which was not the version voted upon during the morning’s deliberation,” according to Leonen. Tetch Torres-Tupas/JE
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